Visiting Sydney is obviously a must during your stay in Australia. Known mainly for the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge, Sydney is full of many places and activities to discover! So here are some of the best things to do in Sydney to make your stay unforgettable!
Cultural activities in Sydney
To visit museums
There are many museums in Sydney, and temporary exhibitions in sometimes unusual places.
The Australian Museum is the iconic museum of Sydney. The single entry is 15 AUD but it would be a shame not to take advantage of temporary exhibitions (for a total price of 27 AUD). It is the oldest museum in Australia, and it is dedicated to natural history and anthropology.
Art Gallery of NSW
As its name suggests, this museum is dedicated to art, and entry is free.
This is a science and applied arts museum. It often offers original temporary exhibitions which attract many visitors. The entry price is 15AUD.
Museum of Contemporary art
This museum of contemporary art is free, it is located at Circular Quay opposite the Opera. We advise you to go upstairs to the cafe to admire the view.
This museum is perfect for delighting young and old alike! It is divided into several sections: a classic museum, a “visit to vintage boats” section offered by passionate and affable volunteers. You can also discover a real submarine (sometimes it is not docked, check before). Finally, a 3D film on themes related to the oceans can be viewed.
The Sydney Observatory overlooks a park at Millers Point. You can access the museum, the planetarium, take an astronomy class and above all admire the stars by booking an Observatory night tour.
Live a cinema experience
There are two large chain cinemas (Hoytt and Event), in addition to independent cinemas. The Hoytt franchise offers very comfortable premium experiences : for 38 AUD (compared to around 16 AUD for a classic session), you will have unlimited popcorns and soda, isolated reclining seats and an intimate room. If you wish, you can also choose alcoholic drinks or an à la carte meal directly served at your seat during the film.
In summer, Sydney is full of outdoor cinemas . Among the most famous, the St Georges Open Air cinema (located towards Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair in the heart of the Botanical Garden), allows you to sip a cocktail in one of the pop-up bars and admire a breathtaking view of the Opera and the Harbor Bridge before watching the film. There is also the Moonlight Cinema at Centennial Park or the Sunset Cinema in North Sydney.
Finally, Mov’in Bed offers an even different cinema experience since it involves watching a film from a bed: inflatable mattress, duvet and pillows, it’s ideal for watching a film like at home, but under the stars …
Visit the iconic University of Sydney
It is advisable to visit the University of Sydney on weekdays to be able to discover it in an authentic context. On weekends, you will be more surrounded by tourists, but if you are lucky you can attend a sports competition between students.
The University of Sydney is a surprising place because it mixes an architecture which dates from 1850 (it recalls the University of Cambridge and has its own museum) and an ultra-modern part (which includes a shopping center on campus, with telephone, bank signs, a modern bookstore, digital signs).
Many sports fields are available to students, and a small underground passage is covered with tags to the delight of students since they are allowed to climb the tunnel as they wish.
Go to the Opera, the theater or see concerts
Cultural life in Sydney is dynamic if you know where to look. The Sydney Opera House stages a large number of shows.
Large international artists usually give their concerts in stadiums, such as the ANZ Stadium, Allianz Stadium or the Qudos Bank Arena.
There are many theaters and performance halls in Sydney. Visit the Ticketek site to glean information but also to reserve your seats.https://www.instagram.com/p/B3GlPXpncgf/
Go to Lunapark
The Lunapark in Sydney is only open from Friday to Monday. It has been under construction for many years, the attractions were destroyed and then rebuilt before it reopened in 2004.
The entrance of Luna Park is one of the flagship activities in Sydney. You can enter the amusement park for free to observe the view of the Harbor Bridge and discover the special atmosphere that reigns there. The adjoining pool (North Sydney Olympic Pool) is an outdoor pool with a very nice view of the deck.
The Lunapark is one of the places to admire the famous New Year’s fireworks, at an affordable price.
Stroll in the Entertainment Quarter
The Sydney Entertainment Quarter is a small village built from scratch near Moore Park . It has a small exhibition hall, several cinemas, restaurants, bars, bowling alley and shops along a pedestrian street. This is also where the Fox studios and the Mov’in Bed open air cinema are located.
You can take a ride to the Centennial Parklands Equestrian Center for petting horses or horse riding.
Climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge
If you are athletic, do not have the vertigo and have a certain budget, this is the activity in Sydney for you! To make the total ascent, count AUD 303 per person during the day. You can also opt for a sunrise or sunset ascent.
Book your tickets here: www.bridgeclimb.com
Go see an AFL match at the stadium
Even if the biggest bastion of the AFL remains Victoria, Sydney is also a city supported by the AFL. The classic transfer window Sydney Swans and GWS Giants is a must. Just go to any pub on a match day and you can appreciate the passion of the Australians for their favorite national sport.
If you have the possibility, go see an important match at the stadium but be accompanied by a local to understand the rules, not always easy to follow!
Explore Sydney Bay from the air
Obviously, taking a helicopter or seaplane tour takes on its full meaning over unique landscapes such as the Great Barrier Reef. However, if you have the opportunity to fly to Sydney, this is an ideal way to explore the bay. Many companies offer different types of flights: a scenic tour, a flight where you will be dropped off for lunch in a magnificent setting, or even a day trip by helicopter. By seaplane you can also admire the sunset.
Sydney Parks and Zoos
Go to the zoo
The best way to get to Taronga zoo is to take the ferry. You will not be disappointed, as the integration of the zoo in nature is successful and the view of Sydney magnificent. When you arrive, check the schedules for animal encounter activities, such as the « bird show » or the « animal feed ». The price of an adult ticket is 43.20AUD if you buy online, and 24.30AUD for a child but there are preferential rates for families.
The funicular takes you to either side of the zoo with a lovely view. You can also go tree climbing on site.
If you have a vehicle, you can go to the Featherdale wildlife park . This zoo is located in Doonside (near Blacktown). It will allow you to see koalas, kangaroos, and to be in contact with the local fauna only 45 minutes by car from Sydney. You can also touch a koala and take a photo with it ? Entrance to the park costs 32AUD .
Go to the SeaLife Aquarium
The Sydney Aquarium allows you to discover marine life without having to travel to the Australian coast. Attention, the aquarium is very visited during school period and weekends. If you pay online, the entry is 36.80AUD (against 46AUD on site).
It is located right in the center of Sydney at Darling Harbor. You can also swim with the sharks by booking.
Visit local markets
You will find many markets in Sydney, almost in all the districts, and each one has its specificity.
The Rocks Market is a tiny market in the heart of The Rocks, in one of the few pedestrian streets in Sydney.
Paddy’s market is the obligatory passage to buy souvenirs, right in Chinatown. You will be spoiled for choice at unbeatable prices, and this is a covered market.
Paddington market , Bondi market , Newtown market or even Glebe market are neighborhood markets where you can find jewelry, clothes, craft stalls as well as some food corners. Sometimes a guitarist will offer you a live concert to enhance your stroll.
The Fish market in Pyrmont is the perfect place for fish lovers! Live, cooked, in sushi, in fish & chips, there is something for everyone. Most sellers do not accept bank cards, so I advise you to withdraw cash beforehand, if you don’t want to queue at the only distributor…
Carriage works Farmers market is a local market which takes place every Saturday in Eveleigh (next to Redfern). It is a real institution in Sydney and you can find a plethora of fresh products from local producers.
Water activities in Sydney
Go see whales and dolphins in season
From May to June, Whale Watching is one of the many attractions in Sydney. Most companies will give you a voucher to repeat the excursion if you were unlucky on D-Day.
Take the ferry
The ferry is a mode of transport like any other in Sydney. Rather than making a detour by bus or taking a metro, the ferry remains efficient and pleasant for those who are not sensitive to seasickness. There are several ferry lines, all accessible with the Opal card. In Sydney Bay, Pyrmont, Barangaroo, Balmain, Circular quay, Milsons Point are regularly served stops. The frequency is usually from a ferry every half hour.
Manly and Watsons Bay are other stops that attract locals and tourists alike.
The ferry is also ideal for exploring Sydney Bay from a different perspective, and transforming the journey to the chosen destination into a real experience. For example, you can watch the sunset on the return ferry from Watsons Bay just with your Opal card, and it’s definitely worth a visit!
Sydney by boat: from Party Boat to dinner cruise
If you wish, many companies (Captain Cook Cruises, Magistic Cruises, etc.) offer day and half-day excursions and outings in Sydney Bay. You can also choose to have dinner on one of the boats. You can enjoy a good meal while enjoying a lovely view, including the Darling Harbor fireworks on Saturday evening at 9 p.m.
In summer, the “Party Boats” also delight backpackers and young Australians who enjoy unlimited music and alcohol on a boat for a few hours.
Surf, paddle or Kayak
To be in Sydney without taking a surf lesson would be to miss out on the most popular activity! If you really want to stay in the clichés, take a surf lesson at Bondi Beach in one of the many clubs.
Paddle paddling or kayaking are also outdoor sports that you can easily practice in many places: Manly, Pittwater, Balmoral, Narabeen Lagoon, Rozelle Bay…
If you want to discover an unusual nautical activity, you can join the Dragon boat racing team. This sport from China is made up of 20 rowers in a row of two, adrenaline and fun guaranteed!
Culinary activities and outings
Eat an ice cream in one of the famous gelaterias
Sydney is full of glaciers. From the Italian Gelateria to the original Turkish glacier, passing by the vegan brands or on the contrary the industrial ice creams of international renown, there is something for everyone!
Some names: Chacha’s ice cream (artisanal ‘healthy’ ice creams with very original flavors like Sesame or Miso), Gelatissimo , Movenpick , Royal Copenhaguen ice cream, New Zealand Natural ice cream, and of course the famous Ben & Jerries…
Among the most famous among ice esthetes / music lovers:
- Messina (at The Star Pyrmont, Surry Hills, Newtown…) – try the scents of the week
- Rivareno Gelato (Barangaroo or Surry Hills): very creamy Italian ice cream. I recommend their flagship perfume « Cremina Rivareno »
- Cow & The Moon in Newtown
- N2 Extreme Gelato (Haymarket): These are nitrogen ice creams, made to measure, on demand and before your eyes. They use a particular process and there is little choice
- Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream in Newtown: traditional Turkish ice cream
Jazz bar and live concerts in bars
Live concerts in bars and pubs are legion. No need to go to a trendy or recommended place to discover talented groups. Often bars have an evening dedicated to live music specifically on a day of the week.
Some names by way of example: Le Surly’s, The Workers, The Lansdowne Hotel, Botany View Hotel… Sometimes you just have to go to the local pub to come across a concert that will liven up your evening.
Other bars are dedicated to a particular style of music, such as jazz bars: The swinging Cat, Palmer & Co or Foundry 616, Venue 505…
Trivia is a game that Australians love. It is a kind of life-size Trivial Pursuit: an animator takes the microphone in the bar. Each table forms a team and must answer the facilitator’s questions in writing. At the end of each round, the leader collects the team sheets, corrects them, gives the answers and the scores.
The atmosphere is at its peak and the teams are bickering briskly, alcohol helping. Trivias are often questions of general culture, but sometimes bars opt for thematic Trivias: series, sport, music, etc.
It is quite rare that the bars of Sydney do not have an evening of the week dedicated to trivias.
Have a avocado toast in a cafe
Avocado toast is a food routine for Australians. Very often the main element of breakfast, it is served in most cafes. Avocado toast is regularly served with feta, grilled halloumi (Greek cheese), or eggs.
Go to a cafe and ask for your « Avo toast », you will not be disappointed. Australians are big fans of coffee and hot drinks in all their forms so you can accompany it with soy latte, Chai Latte, Long Black or classic cappuccino…
Go out at night to bars and restaurants
It is often said that the lifestyle of Sydney is less lively than Melbourne because it is more oriented towards fitness, the beach and barbies (aka barbecues) than on parties and outings. There is certainly a part of truth, but it is not for as much that you will not be able to find your happiness and of what to profit cheerfully from the night life.
There is a curfew in central Sydney: bars no longer serve alcohol after 1:30 a.m. But since the evenings start early, it won’t change your fun time. In addition, take your ID absolutely everywhere, you will be asked in any bar in the evening.
If you want to party in an international place, popular with backpackers, the most popular places are the Ivy, the Establishment, and the Sash on Sundays.
If you want to have a drink in a trendy and typical place, Surry Hills, Paddington or Newtown are the perfect neighborhoods.
All you need to know: Where to go out in Sydney
Eat in a community restaurant
« Lentille as anything » in Newtown is a community restaurant where everyone is free to pay the price they want. These are large tables where we share a meal, served by volunteers. The upper floor hosts yoga classes and other seminars on various themes.
There is a large community of international backpackers or expatriates in Sydney. Associations, Facebook groups or Meet-ups are organized regularly. They are often thematic: running with others, drinking glasses, going to the cinema, language exchange … European countries but also South American are widely represented. It is ideal for meeting people on arrival.
Have a drink on a Rooftop
There are iconic rooftops (or bars with a view) of Sydney. Among them are the Opera Bar, the Hotel Palissade at Walsh Bay, the Glenmore at The Rocks, the Squire’s landing at Circular Quay.
Other more hidden bars also have pleasant terraces for sipping cocktails: The Dolphin, The Clock, The Horse in Surry Hills, The Zephyr, The Light Brigade in Woollahra, Zephyr, Untied in Barangaroo, East Village in Darlinghurst…
Eat a Fish & Chips at Doyles in Watsons Bay
As soon as you exit the ferry at Watsons Bay, you can’t miss Doyles . It is an iconic brand of fish and seafood. For more modest budgets, you can take out in their corner. Fish & Chips, Calamari rings, Salt and Pepper squids, you will have plenty to find your happiness.
If you are looking for a slightly more luxurious experience, the posh restaurant and its tables facing the sea is on the left once you have passed the pontoon of the ferry.
The Beach Club is also a popular place for locals to have a drink or snack. It is ideal for an Australian experience.
Plan a BBQ on the beach with friends
It is not specific to Sydney but there are many barbecues available around the beaches or in the parks. You just have to bring your own food and you can enjoy the facilities with friends or family.
Among the self-service BBQs: Bronte Park, Centennial Park, Shelly Beach in Manly, Blackwattle Bay Park in Glebe…
Sports activities in Sydney
Take boxing or crossfit lessons with a coach in a park
In Sydney, the culture of sport and fitness is very developed. There are many sports halls. There is something for all budgets, from the most accessible to the one that offers the most premium experience. The fashion for the F45 (akin to 45 intense minutes of crossfit) attracts many Sydneysiders.
But the new trend is to practice sports in small groups outdoors, in Hyde Park or in green spaces. Group running, crossfit, or boxing: you will often see a coach training and motivating the troops early in the morning, during lunch break or in the evening after work.
Go hiking in the national parks around Sydney
It is very easy to escape the frenzy of CBD for a day. If you are not motorized, there are many hikes very easy to access: Vaucluse and Nielson Park, Watsons Bay, Cremorne Point, Blue Mountains, Palm beach, the Maroubra walk to Malabar, La Perouse and Congwong Beach…
If you have a car, the Royal National Park allows you to get away for a day.
Do a Yoga session facing the sea at sunrise
The organization Yoga by the sea offers yoga sessions facing the sea . Some take place at sunrise. More personal initiatives on Facebook groups or meet ups offer to get together to do yoga together.
Yoga is popular in Sydney. You can therefore practice it in all its forms, indoors or outdoors in unusual places.